Is the flu vaccine safe for people with egg allergies?

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Is the flu vaccine safe for people with egg allergies?

Flu season, which runs from October to May, is just getting starting.  Every year, millions of Americans will get sick from the flu.  Most people who do will recover without serious complications but others may require hospitalization and tens of thousands will die from it.

Currently, the CDC recommends that everyone 6 months of age and older get vaccinated each year.  However, what about people who are allergic to eggs?  Some flu vaccines are made using eggs and can have tiny amounts of egg proteins in them.  Should those with an egg allergy avoid getting a flu shot?

At the end of last year, a paper of an analysis of 28 studies involving thousands of people with egg allergy, found that people with egg allergy can receive the influenza vaccine without any special precaution. Egg allergies are actually rare in both adults and children.  The majority of people, who had an egg allergy as a child, will outgrow it at some point in their life. 

Because of the above report of 28 studies, it is no longer necessary to do the following:

·      See an allergy specialist for the flu shot

·      Give special flu shots that don’t contain traces of eff

·      Require longer-than-normal observation periods after the shot – it used to be required that someone with an egg allergy needed to be observed for at least 30 minutes after being given a flu shot

·      Ask about egg allergy before giving the vaccine

It is understandable for anyone with an egg allergy to have concerns. To answer these concerns, here are several questions many people may have about the safety of getting a flu shot if they have an egg allergy.

Why do flu vaccines contain egg protein?

Most flu vaccines are produced using an egg-based manufacturing process and thus contain a small amount of egg protein called ovalbumin.

What is considered an egg allergy?

An egg allergy can be tested and confirmed by a consistent medical history of adverse reactions to eggs and egg-containing foods, plus skin and/or blood testing for immunoglobulin E antibodies to egg proteins. Persons who are able to eat lightly cooked egg such as a scrambled egg without reaction are unlikely to be allergic.  Egg allergies can also range in their severity.

How common are egg allergies?

Egg allergy affects about 1.3% of all children and 0.2% of all adults.

Is there a certain flu vaccine a person should get if they are allergic to eggs?

If a person is able to eat lightly cooked eggs, like scrambled eggs, without a reaction, they are unlikely to be allergic and can get any licensed flu vaccine that is otherwise appropriate for their age and health status.

What about people who get hives after eating eggs or egg-containing foods?

Anyone with a history of egg allergy, who has experienced only hives after exposure to eggs, can get any licensed flu vaccine, which is again appropriate for their age and health status.

What about people who have more serious reactions to eating eggs or egg-containing foods like cardiovascular changes or a reaction requiring epinephrine?

Anyone who has more serious reaction to eating eggs or egg-containing foods, such as angioedema, respiratory distress, lightheadedness, or recurrent emesis, or required epinephrine or other emergency medical intervention, can still get any licensed flu vaccine but the vaccine should be given by a healthcare provider who can recognize and respond to a severe allergic reaction.

How long after flu vaccine is given does a reaction occur in people with a history of egg allergy?

Allergic reactions can begin very soon after the shot is given. However, the onset of symptoms is sometimes delayed.

Are there any situations in which a person with an egg allergy should not get a flu vaccine?

Any person with an egg allergy who has previously experienced a severe allergic reaction to the flu vaccine, regardless of the component suspected of being responsible for the reaction should not get a flu vaccine again.

Anyone with a history of egg allergy should discuss their concerns with their healthcare professional to all their questions answered thoroughly to their satisfaction. For now, the vast majority of those with egg allergy can safely get a flu vaccine.  The more people who are vaccinated against the flu, the less likely there will be a widespread outbreak. It’s always best to remember that the best ways to avoid the flu include staying away from people who you know or suspect might be sick; covering your mouth when you cough and nose when you sneeze; and washing your hands regularly – especially during the cold winter months.

However, the best preventative measure anyone has of not contracting influenza is to be vaccinated against it. Bottom line, there is no reason for someone with a suspected egg allergy to not get the flu vaccine.